Mr. Fingers White Label Reissue of “Moonglow”

Mr. Fingers "Moonglow" (whitelabel)

Previously only available on 1993’s Lost Trax compilation, this is some amazing work by Larry Heard that should never have been “lost.” Built around a foundation of shuffling beats, excellently programmed toms, some jazzy keys and some amazing etheral synth melodies this one is a sure fire floor filler. I only wish the quality were better and the track didn’t just run out at the end, but beggars can’t be choosers right? I’ll still be playing it late into the night. This one’s a big pretty and deep middle finger to all the newbies who think Chicago house is one dimensional.

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Area – Dogs & Flies 12″ – Mindshift

This four track EP on Chicago’s Mindshift Records shines as an excellent example of an ideal marriage of house and techno concepts. The A side dives deep into some lush, dubby and reverb soaked sounds that immerse the listener yet doesn’t drown them. There’s plenty of tension in the tracks to drive a dancefloor as Area and Hakim Murphy both deliver really nice deep cuts. On the B side Murdoc takes a turn at remixing the title track delivering a bit more driving take, with rhythm structures that call to mind early Carl Craig productions and some nice stuttered editing. The last track “Powder Burn”, also by Murdoc, is a tracky affair with microhouse influences and sounds reminiscent of Matt John’s releases on Perlon or Underl_ne. Definitely one for the deeper and headier house & techno set.

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Levon Vincent – Impression Of A Rainstorm 12″ – Novel Sound

Levon Vincent’s increasingly infamous Novel Sounds imprint, an outlet devoted to his solo releases since 2008, drops another likely limited, stamped whitelabel edition to close out 2011.  If you’ve been following his progress, this release will come as no surprise, but rather as a welcome addition to his steadily building catalog.  (Well, steady save for his studio hiatus in 2010.)

For his new listeners: this New Yorker produces a distinctive blend of deep techno and Chicago-style warehouse music.  His is a brand of pseudo lo-fi that gives the impression of grubby, overdriven amps and crackly speakers yet is meticulously arranged for heavy impact and sonorous clarity.  In essence, these are prime dancefloor movers for the deeper set.

 

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The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble – Mr. Machine 2×12″ / CD – !K7

Indie heavyweight Studio !K7′s latest signing, The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble, comes on strong in the recent tradition of Francesco Tristano and Christian Prommer (another !K7 alum.)  This is a fully-realized,  largely acoustic recording, which while taking some loose inspiration from the language of electronic music, doesn’t stay in loop-oriented territory for very long.

The downtempo “You Make Me Real” is reminiscent of Plaid‘s Rest Proof Clockwork album, with its evocative use of acoustic texture, almost ominous tension in its delicate crescendos and taut patter of percussion, harp glissando and plucked melodies.  Following that immediately is BBF’s rework of Pretend, released earlier this year on Emika’s EP for Ninja Tune.  The version here is a different revision though, where the Ninja Tune version of the track drew electronic material from the synthetic original, the sprightly acoustic album rendition contents itself to recreate the melodies and structure of their rework with more classical instrumentation.  It’s a remarkably worthy revisit.

The studio team no doubt bears mentioning on this package, the studio recordings were a collaborative effort between Jazzanova’s Axel Reinemer and Dubplates & Mastering’s illustrious Rashad Becker, the latter also being credited for the final mixing and mastering.  Foremost an immersive listening experience, Mr Machine is a crystal-clear, precisely orchestrated recording that should interest audiophile listeners, dance music and downtempo fans, modern classical and jazz heads.

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Rick Wilhite – Analog Aquarium 2×12″ / CD – Still Music

Fourth member of the Three Chairs collective (alongside Kenny Dixon Jr.Marcellus Pittman, and Theo Parrish), Rick Wilhite has finally produced his debut album, a scant 15 years after his first credited releases.  He’s a veteran who knows his way around the decks as well as the studio, and this savvy shines through in his floor-ready tracks: they’re all heavy on groove and while they fit in to the deep-house bracket, they’re have an earthy character that sets them apart.

It’s an amorphous and highly varied album, moving effortlessly between the Amp Fiddler improv funkadelia of Muzic Gonna Save The World Pt. 1, the stripped-down Levon Vincent dub of Cosmic Soup, the giddy filter-house of In The Rain, and the Three Chairs dusty cabinet funk of City Bar Dancing and Dark Walking (a collaboration with Marcellus Pittman.)

“The Godson” seems to have such command of his paradoxically clean and dirty sonics that he navigates effectively from tracks that sound like roughly stitched-together sketches to those that feel like fully-arranged studio compositions.  Most of all, this album represents coherently so many of the records that he would play in a dancefloor set, with its moments of building tension, moments of steady groove, of jubilance, and of sweaty release.

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Theo Parrish – Parallel Dimensions 2×12″ – Ubiquity

Essential reissue from Theo Parrish here. In stark contrast to the showy influence of nostalgia on so much deep house being released in the past couple years, this double-pack 2004 reissue of his year 2000 sophomore album on Sound Signature sounds torn out of time and trend.

Much of it ranges from slow-house to hip-hop in tempo (120 down to 80bpm), chopping bits of drum texture and soul samples into funky minimalist collages.  Often his tracky recordings embody the idea of sampled human voice foremost as an instrument, disembodying words from their meaning and turning them into choral mantras.  Sometimes he lets these loops stand on their own (Brain, So Now What), others he embellishes upon the theme, turning the song into a full-on jam-session (Summertime Is Here, Anansies Dances).

While the forward-thinking album doesn’t reinforce the current understanding of “retro deep house,” it’s an inspired and inspiring voyage, one that’s already stood the test of time.

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Fudge Fingas – What Works 10″ – Firecracker

Very pretty 10″ packaging with an eye for detail, with a limited batch apparently released with gold rather than silver ink, Firecracker keeps their collectible series of retro-house releases alive with this Fudge Fingas joint.  Sounding even slower than their true midrange tempo, all these songs share a nostalgic view to the mellow melancholy of string-laden 90s vintage Detroit and Chicago house singles.  There’s a little variation between Vakula‘s deeper, dubbier, more contemporary version versus the original, but both stay pretty close to the thematic chord elements and progression.  To contrast, the pseudo-tropicalia B2 outro adds levity, with a loose tin drum melody and layered ambience over warm sub-bass response.

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Damon Bell – Kush Musik Wax 12″ – DeepBlak

Aybee’s DeepBlak compiles 3 tracks from Damon Bell’s Kush Musik series for vinyl release.  The music is as much a kaleidescopic diaspora of organic influences as the label art.  At times evoking dub reggae, downtempo, Detroit house, but at each moment seeming to move fluidly between these points rather than trying to completely blend them into some hybrid.  To keep pace, Aybee reworks Ezuku, leaving in the echo-effected vocals intact, and stripping down the beat around it.  With fragments parallel to Eighteenth Street Lounge, Ubiquity, and even Meat Beat Manifesto, Damon Bell creates uptempo rhythms with lush sophistication.

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Instant House – I’m Free 12″ – Sacred Rhythm Music

Instant House, the NYC / Dance Tracks-related collaboration between Joe Claussell, Stan Hatzakis and Tony Confusione, was apparently active between 1988 and 1993, as indicated on their 2003 retrospective compilation Jungle Source Records.  Now rarities, Joe Claussell revisits some of the material on his own Sacred Rhythm Music label.

Included is what sounds like an original version of “I’m Free,” which is a short, soulful piano house tune with impromptu diva vocals laid overtop.  Claussell updates “Hi-Hat” as a rumbling, dub-delayed house jam with clattering hats and claps, in much the same spirit as Francois K’s deep excursions.  Finally, Star-Gato, a tinsel-thin keyboard ambient piece, reminiscent of Detroit Escalator Company or John Beltran‘s atmospheric side.

NYC house heads may well recognize these jams and with the wide variation between the three tracks, it will gain the project some new interest too.

 

 

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NSNT PRJCT – Laygo My Faygo 12″ – Wild Oats

The strange acronym here stands for the collaboration between Manuel Gonzales and Wild Oats owner Kyle Hall.

Of the tracks here, 3 of them sound to me like they could have been rough-sketch versions of Kyle Hall’s Must See EP for Third Ear.  They’re handy with the rough-and-ready swung percussion, quick cut edits, and boomy bass, but less developed, structured, and melody-driven than he’s been producing lately.  While they’re less hummable, they’re perhaps more immediate and DJ-friendly.  The beats are straight-ahead with drifting effect-manipulation, they forgo some of the rhythm change-ups that made some of his earlier Wild Oats releases daunting to mix.

The lone outlier and most interesting track on the release is the nearly beatless (We Invented Dis.)  It has mostly disintintigrated rhythm part that wanders in and out of the mix, a warped and wildly pitchbent vocal, and an evocatively modulating turquoise chord structure.  The overall impression is discombobulated ambience; it would feel right at home on C2‘s Just Another Day EP, and from one Detroiter to another, that’s a pretty worthy outcome.

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Itchie’s Pick of the Week: Two new 7″ releases from Chicago’s own Tall Black Guy

I first started hearing about Tall Black Guy when All Natural Inc. was throwing the Dance To the Drummer’s DB beat battles at Sonotheque in the middle 00’s. I’d heard he was a beast, but it wasn’t until he dropped off his group The Eighties Babies (with D. Jackson) debut full length at Gramaphone that I really understood how much of a beast was. I loved the record and became a quick, devout fan. I like to joke with his wife that I’m his number one fan, before her and even his own mama.
He’s released another album with D. Jackson entitled Sonic Music, has another nearly complete project with 1773 called Greenlight Go slated for an early 2012 release, and just released an album Darling Lure with Chicago Hip-Hop pioneers Primeridian on All Natural Inc. He has numerous free projects on the web: Hollyweird 1 & 2 (GrittyGoat.com); and his Michael Jackson remix suite available here.  I was really looking forward to him releasing this one!  He broke me off with his flip of “Beat It” maybe a year before… and I played it everywhere I could!  It’s a banging tune.  Get’s MCs open every time. It’s a perfect example of how he takes familiar tunes and dismembers them, turning them into something brand new, and often beautiful.  His productions are full, and lush, soulful, with cracking drums, banging bass.

The first 7 inch, released on BstrdBoots, is a Gilles Peterson favorite (it’s included on the new Brownswood Bubblers Volume 7 compilation).  It is a flip of Fela Kuti’s “Water No Get Enemy“.  It’s origins stem from the Facebook based producers community The Beat Inn, where members agree to use the same source material and share the results.  It’s a slower piece than the original Fela song.  TBG flips it with a new time signature and swing.  It’s melodic, and beautiful.  It never seems to repeat itself.  The flip side “Lost & Gone” is also quite a gem.  Buy it HERE.

7 inch #2, released on UK based First Word Records, features Primeridian’s Simeon Viltz, and Shev Rock on “Dance Forever”.  The B-side is a bit more uptempo and funky (I can see it becoming a party anthem in an ideal world), flips The Fatback Band’s oft-sampled west coast classic “Backstrokin’” (check Dr. Dre’s “Let’s Get High” from The Chronic 2001 or Dolla Holla’s “Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood” on the original Project Blowed compilation).  Buy it HERE.

Both are highly recommended and available at Gramaphone now.  Check the webstore at the links above for sound samples, or come in and find them on the hip-hop wall, grab a turntable, and zone out.

Vakula – Saturday Remix5 12″ – 3rd Strike

Recently emergent Ukranian producer Vakula revisits his Yuri Shulgin collaboration “Saturday” on this crowded EP.

Vakula closes out the EP with a revision of his own work, a blurry and moody blue joint that is too enchanting for its short running time.  Sharing the B side with him are Fudge Fingas, who submit a melody-heavy downbeat house version, and Legowelt, with a song based around a dissonant acid line, rave whistles, and even a chime melody a la Peter Kersten.

The longer tracks stretch out on the A side.  Deetron brings the song up to nightclub standards, with a lustrous rendition balancing a pumping bassline and a crescendo of FM acid tweaks fading finally into a contemplative piano refrain.  Then, the most unexpected contribution on the record comes from Jean-Francois Roit L’Eveque, lured back into the studio as Jeff Sharel.  He reinvents the track as new jack swing, complete with slap bass, big synth work, and sultry vocals.

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Gramaphone Showcase @ Smartbar – Wednesday November 9th, 2011

Gramaphone’s monthly Smartbar residency boasts a variety of reasons for celebration this week.  Phonologue proprietor and Dollar Disco Smartbar resident Scotty Brandon will be commemorating another trip around the sun with some funky music, meanwhile local selector Joseph Sylthe will be debuting his heavy, sophisticated sound on the club’s Function One sound system.

Supporting on the night are residents: Steve Mizek, man behind the curtain at Little White Earbuds and Stolen Kisses; and Gramaphone honcho, Boom Boom Room ambassador Michael Serafini.

Rondenion – Night Breeze 12″ – Ragrange

An dusty release for the somewhat mysterious Ragrange record label.  Rondenion does here what he does best: lumbering deep house tracks with lots of crowd noise, crackling samples, and a steadfast head-down disco beat to anchor the production.  Recommended for fans of Rick Wade, Kez YM and KDJ, all the tracks here have the dense, loop-driven drive to keep a dancefloor moving; side A is more of an uptempo workout, where both the B-sides are slower-burning, late-night jams.  Rondenion’s earlier work for Chicago-based Still Music and Rush Hour marked him as a strong talent and this EP handily maintains that reputation.

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Jonsson / Alter – Mod 2×12″ / CD – Kontra-Musik

This album is a tour-de-force.  It might take a moment to realize, though – given the style of music.  This is deep house at its most essential and, more than anything, understated.

The glacial melodic developments and acidic builds are punctuated by Gunnar Jonsson’s trademark analog keyboard flourishes, the beats a balance of Joel Alter’s more propulsive work for Sweatshop and Gunnar Jonsson’s implacably subterranean groove.  All of the tracks bear the tell-tale signs of the very stylish casual house sound: musical phrases ending in a breathy sighs, clever vocal interludes during the a few break downs, the rawer-than-raw dry preset drum claps and toms as seasoning.  The difference is the effortless ease that these two collaborate with not just mastery, but authenticity and expressiveness within the style’s boundaries.  The slight Matthew Herbert-hiccups and choral harmonies of Dvarg, the melancholic David Moufang-via-Detroit keys on Tre Ackord, the muffled Theo Parrish stomp of Kyrka 2.0, all the while they draw the dancer inwards as if by magnetism.

The idiosyncratic timelessness of the black and white cover photography, courtesy of Henrik Jonsson, is consistent with the enduring quality of this gorgeous double-pack.

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Afrikan Sciences – Means & Ways 12″ – DeepBlak

This is an exuberant, imaginative collection from Aybee‘s DeepBlak, a label recently revitalized as a vinyl imprint.  Culled from a full-length digital album of the same name, the key to Means and Ways is its syncopation: the drum programming is frequently shifting between modes, switching back and forth from one motif into another.  The music falls somewhere outside of the common categories of Techno and House proper, into a nether region between them sometimes inhabited by people like Vakula, Hieroglyhpic Being, and Theo Parrish.

On Ejercicios there’s a slowly drifting melody, whereas Sprials and NanoRock Skank are almost solely beat-driven. Nonetheless, in all the original tracks here it is the percussion treatment, both in timing and timbre, that takes precedence.  It is Aybee’s rework on the B side that stands as an exception; the remix is more loop-driven and lets chords oscillate steadily over a chattering synthesized talking drum.  Means And Ways is a head-turning and strikingly physical 12″.

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BNJMN – Nightvision 12″ – Stolen Kisses

BNJMN’s short, sweet track headlines this sophomore release for the local Chicago Stolen Kisses imprint.

In fact, one could go a step further and describe this song as saccharine.  It sounds like some kind of warped mariachi riff played back on a neon synth with burbling bass rolling in waves beneath it.  BNJMN stays in friendly house tempo territory, the sleek sounds are quite along the same lines as his Plastic World album for Rush Hour.

Although he’s another European artist critically acclaimed for his recent work, Andy Stott was a peculiar choice for the remixer here, and it shows in his dissimilar reimagining of the song.  He’s slowed it considerably, washed out the sounds, and submerged their faded remainder to a contrapuntal dub bassline, leaving a result that feels kindred to his muddy pair of recent albums for Modern Love.

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Arthur Russell – Let’s Go Swimming 12″ – Audika

From the trippy, loose edits, bubbly sound effects and patter of drums on the Coastal Dub to the mellow, melodic downtempo groove of the Make 1, 2 (Gem Spa Dub), this is a gorgeous, thoughtful reissue of his 1986 single.  The Make 1, 2 version is actually a welcome addendum to the original tracklisting, likewise the full color cover seems to be a tasteful late addition.  The lightness and musicality of the versions here are wistful, they evoke warmer weather and a quirky playfulness.  From a production standpoint, this could easily appeal to fans of recent counterparts like Studio, House Of House, and Lindstrom, but these are only very loose points of reference – this is a record to listen to on its own terms.  Recommended.

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IAMTHATIAM – Time 4 Harmony In This World 12″ – Mathematics

Hieroglyphic Being is recording as IAMTHATIAM on this hypnotic EP.  When he describes his music as “new-age house,” I think that the music here is what he’s talking about.  The title track sounds as much indebted to Gamelan music as to any notion of modern club-oriented house music.  A Day Trip Through Divination is a bit slowed down, and again has a foreign feel to it, the modal harmonies remind me of the chords favoured by Autechre in some of their more abstract / generative work.  Over the course of the three tracks, IAMTHATIAM’s perfuses the work with unique timbres and a warped sensibility without any of his occasional wild tangents, making for a steadily introspective collection.

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Randomer – Obtuse 12″ – Super

Fans of Blawan, Shed, Objekt rejoice, here’s another stompy syncopated warehouse number.  Randomer’s track record reveals a background in more dubstep and junglist leanings, this four track release indicates a sharp shift towards a four-on-the-floor friendly style.

True to form, everything is imbued with heavy counter rhythms, tight edits, and dynamic sound design, from the breathy sighs used as subtle emphasis on the title track to the pots-and-pans percussion of Dope.  Adventurous DJ weapons, but they stay very much in the realm of tool-tracks, there is a great deal of variation within each of the tracks but not much that signals a build or break, no melodies, and tonality only in service to the intense rhythmic expression.

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